Tag Archives: miltary

Women in the Draft – Yes

Pearl River     The draft was a central issue in the opposition to the Vietnam War.  It touched all young men from eighteen to twenty-six, and the families that loved them.  It was a terribly unifying horror that was shared throughout the country, forcing life changing, and often life and death decisions at a very, very early age that would determine your future, if you were lucky enough to have one.  There was no choice to register, just as there is no choice to register for young men today, but once registered you might be on your way to Vietnam, Canada, or jail or any space in between that you could find.  You might be able to avoid the draft, but you could not avoid the decision.

Though draft was universal for young men, that did not mean it was one-size-fits-all and equitable.  It was class and race-biased with a vengeance.  During that period, when going to college was not as ubiquitous as it is now fifty years later, if you were a student, you could get a 2-S deferment, as a special middle class your-life-is-more-important-than-mine card.  If you knew someone at the local draft board, you were rolling as well, if you ran into trouble on the grades.  I did time as a draft counselor and in draft resistance during that period in both New Orleans and western Massachusetts.  I stopped when I felt like I was running a college service center.  Dropping out of school to organize, I went through draft physicals in Springfield, Massachusetts and New Orleans.  This was a working-class congregational meeting with the preponderance of draftees were people of color.

Anti-war protests were key, but the draft was the trump card in making opposition to the war grow and prevail.  Working offshore on oil platforms in the summer is shift work. I was on 14 and 7.  Company guys were on 7 and 7.  Coworkers were from Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, and of course Texas.  If the money was good, the drive in and out was no big thing.  You worked twelve hour shifts and were stuck out on the water.  You talked, and it was surprising in 1967 when I was a teenager to hear the roustabouts and tool pushers state plainly that they would not let their kids go to Vietnam.

Look at our endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  You want to end a war, institute a compulsory service draft.  You want to end it even faster, given the powers that be, draft women, too.

Not that women can’t fight.  Some 17% of the US military is now composed of women on the front line, as pilots, and any other job that they are able to muster.  They are no longer restricted from combat roles.  As this number grows, it will give some lawmakers pause.  It’s one thing for many of them to volunteer, but as their percentage increases, these old schoolers who want to control their bodies in every other way, are not going to be happy seeing them come back home to their districts in body bags.

A national commission is reportedly recommending that young women be required to register for the draft at eighteen, just as young men do.  I’m all for it.  It virtually guarantees that a compulsory draft will never be used again.


Military is Spending, but is it Protecting?

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

Little Rock       Recently, I had a wakeup call realizing that our missile defense system is a gazillion dollar charade with perhaps 50% effectiveness.  Having watched a good part of the East and Western Conference NBA finals, I couldn’t get one of the commercials out of my mind about whether “pretty good, is good enough.”  I’m not sure that 50% is anywhere near “good enough,” when literally millions might be killed and whole cities destroyed.  Reading a recent column by Alexander Cockburn in Harper’s raises serious questions and casts doubt on what the heck the military is really doing with all of its dollars.

First, let’s be clear it’s sucking up a huge amount – 53 cents out of every dollar appropriated by Congress is one figure he shared.  Furthermore, getting “mathy” again, Cockburn makes a convincing case that the military is now spending past Cold War levels, and that, practically speaking, there was never a “peace dividend.”  The military has managed to pretty much increase their budget by 5% every year, come hell or high water.  Those are the numbers, so that’s the facts, Jack.

Cockburn makes an argument that part of the scam the military has been pulling on the politicians to make them such rubber stamps, including virtually all candidates for the Democratic nominations thus far who have been pretty quiet on defense spending, is by manufacturing global crises.  Not that the world is not a dangerous and messy place, but the military has become adept in its fundraising to be able to heighten the terror index every time their budget is threatened.

Ok, so they are good at that and are sucking up a lot of money, so what?  Well, here’s the kicker to me:  little of it seems to be on soldiers, and a lot of it seems to be for new high-tech toys that don’t work as advertised and cost more than ever imagined.  It is almost impossible to say the word overruns without attaching military to it.  Cockburn goes through a litany of new planes, destroyers, and even robot warriors, though that seems to have been ditched completely.  Each destroyer cost billions, so we’re now lucky to have three, but when Congress voted to start there were supposed to be scores.  Same for planes, we have a couple of dozen where we supposedly would build over 100.  Why?  There seems to be no oversight or real incentive for either the men in uniform or the contractors to ever cut costs from toilet covers to jet planes.  The examples from other countries who do so are sobering, as well.

Meanwhile when it comes to soldiers themselves, families are paying for better flak jackets, and the government now says it is ok to fleece soldiers and their families on predatory loans.  The priority doesn’t seem to be either the troops or public defense, so what the heck is going on here, and why is this OK with Congress?


Please enjoy Jesse Malin’s Room 13

Thanks to KABF.